Sugar Act Explained — Section 22

April 5, 1764

Section 22 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains that customs officials have the authority to authorize shipments when paperwork is missing.

Sugar Act, 1764, Date, Taxes, Reaction, Grenville Acts, AHC

George Grenville, Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, was responsible for the Sugar Act of 1764, starting the movement in the 13 Colonies against Taxation Without Representation.

Understanding the Sugar Act of 1764

This entry is part of a series that explains the Sugar Act of 1764, including, rules, regulations, and penalties. To learn more, see History of the Sugar Act and Facts About the Sugar Act. Vocabulary, key people, and primary documents related to the Sugar Act are listed at the bottom of this article.

Section 22 — Exceptions to Proper Documentation

XXII. Provided always, That if any rum of spirits, sugar or paneles, molasses or syrups, shall be imported into Great Britain from any British colony or plantation in America, without being included in such certificate as is herein before directed, and it shall be made to appear, to the satisfaction of the commissioners of his Majesty’s customs at London or Edinburgh respectively, that the goods are really and truly the produce of such British plantation or colony, and that no fraud was intended, it shall and may in such case be lawful for the said respective commissioners to permit the said goods to be entered, upon the payment of the like duties as such goods would be liable to if this law had not been made.


Section 22 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains specific conditions under which certain goods can be imported into Great Britain without the required documentation, but can still be proven to be legitimate. The key points are:

  1. Goods Without Certificate — If rum, spirits, sugar, paneles, molasses, or syrups are imported into Great Britain from any British colony in America without the required certificate.
  2. Proof of Origin — If it can be shown to the satisfaction of the commissioners of His Majesty’s customs in London or Edinburgh that:
    1.  The goods are genuinely produced in a British colony.
    2.  There was no intention of committing fraud.
  3. Commissioners’ Discretion — The commissioners have the authority to allow the goods to be entered (imported) upon payment of the regular duties that would apply if this law had not been enacted.


The Sugar Act put an elaborate system in place that was intended to verify and track each shipment of goods to the American Colonies. The system ended Salutary Neglect by enforcing the Navigation Acts and supported Mercantilism in the colonies. The system also included: 

  • Documentation — The Sugar Act introduced an elaborate system of bonds and cockets to accurately document the cargo of vessels and ports of call. This system was meant to make it more difficult for merchants to engage in smuggling by providing a detailed paper trail that customs officials could use to verify the legality of goods being traded.
  • Naval Enforcement — Naval officers were instructed to assist in collecting customs duties and patrolling American waters smugglers. This was intended to establish ongoing enforcement of the Sugar Act, however, many officers abused their authority. This contributed to the Gaspee Affair (1772).
  • Admiralty Courts — Accusations of violating the Sugar Act were to be prosecuted in the Admiralty Courts. These courts did not use juries, and the judges had full authority. Parliament considered these courts more reliable than common law courts and would ensure strict enforcement of the law. However, the financial incentives provided to judges by the Sugar Act increased the likelihood they would seize cargo regardless of the evidence.
  • Customs Officer Accountability — The Sugar Act required British Customs Officers to perform their duties in person or forfeit their jobs. Before this, Customs Officers usually lived in England and hired someone in the American Colonies to perform the duties of the position. Requiring Customs Officers to live in the Colonies was intended to reduce corruption and increase effectiveness. However, customs officers were given immunity from counter-suits by merchants, encouraging them to enforce the regulations without fear of legal repercussions.
  • Colonial Governor Reporting — Colonial Governors were required to report on smuggling. They were also required to swear an oath that they would enforce the Sugar Act.


These terms and definitions provide more context for students studying the Sugar Act. For more on the Sugar Act as it relates to the AP US History curriculum, see Sugar ACT APUSH Review.

  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Certificate — An official document attesting a fact, in this case, confirming the origin and authenticity of goods.
  • Colonies — Territories under the control of a distant country; in this context, the American colonies under British rule.
  • Commissioners — Officials in charge of a government department, in this case, customs.
  • Customs — The government agency responsible for regulating the import and export of goods and collecting duties.
  • Edinburgh — The capital city of Scotland, where some of the customs commissioners are based.
  • Entered — Officially recorded with customs for importation.
  • Fraud — Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
  • Goods — Items or products for sale or trade.
  • Import — To bring goods into a country for sale.
  • Legitimate — Genuine and conforming to laws or rules.
  • London — The capital city of England, where some of the customs commissioners are based.
  • Paneles — A type of unrefined sugar.
  • Payment — The action of paying money.
  • Permitted — Allowed or authorized.
  • Produce — To create or bring forth goods.
  • Proof of Origin — Evidence that goods were produced in a specific location.
  • Regulation — A rule made by an authority to control or govern conduct.
  • Rum — A distilled alcoholic drink made from sugarcane byproducts.
  • Satisfaction — Fulfillment of a need or requirement; in this context, convincing proof.
  • Spirits — Strong distilled alcoholic drinks.
  • Syrups — Thick, sweet liquids made by dissolving sugar in boiling water, often flavored or containing medicinal ingredients.

Key People

  • Samuel Adams — Adams helped lead opposition to the Sugar Act in Massachusetts. Went on to become a leader of the Boston Sons of Liberty and one of the most influential men behind the movement for independence.
  • George Grenville — Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Responsible for the design of the Sugar Act and introducing it to Parliament.
  • Stephen Hopkins — Governor of Rhode Island. Critic of the Sugar Act and its impact on the Rhode Island economy and colonial rights.
  • James Otis — Early advocate of the rights of Americans as British subjects. Argued against Writs of Assistance (1761) in the Paxton Case.

Primary Documents

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Sugar Act Explained — Section 22
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 22 of the Sugar Act do
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 10, 2024